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Ecological Achievements

Save Sharks Cove | 36 Turtle Rescues | Ghost Net Recoveries | All Achievements (listed chronologically) | Endorsements

Turtle Rescues

Turtle Rescue #37 "Tiny"
August 9, 2001
Alligator Rock, North Shore Oahu

On August 8th a supporter notified us that a young turtle was sighted with fishing line wrapped around his right front fin.  This is one of those times where I knew for sure that this was no false alarm and that we would likely determine whether this turtle would live or die based on whether we got to him in time.  Myself (Ken) Chris and Paul decided to conduct an early morning search the following day before work in the area he was last sighted.  During the search we sighted two of our amputee turtles (not sure which ones just yet) going about their turtle business.  It is always a great feeling to see these guys making it, handicapped or not, and knowing we are a direct part of their survival.  We also saw a huge Spotted Eagle Ray hooked in the mouth with about one foot of trailing fishing line with a small led weight attached.  There was simply no way to recover him but I believe the hook will rot out and the line will come out without further injury.  Chris spotted Tiny after about an hour and half of searching and called me over.  He came my way and I descended just a few feet and snagged him without incident.  Being so small it was an easy swim to shore and a veterinarian is now caring him for.  I am 99% sure he will unfortunately lose his right fin based on others in the same condition.  This will bring our amputee turtle population up to ten!  We expect his release within thirty days and will continue to watch out for our new little friend.    

Turtle Rescue #36 "Claire"
March, 2001
Puaena Point, North Shore Oahu
This was perhaps the most difficult rescue I (Ken) have ever done.  We had been looking for this turtle for three days it was becoming an obsession to find him.  We knew line was wrapped around the fin based on the report we were given an believed the damage was not complete yet.  We were right and when I spotted him I realized that he was about 250 lbs. and had full use of all fins.  Not only that but he was very weary of me and wanted no part of being rescued.  This one was not going to be easy.  I must admit that despite the fact that I had never let go of a turtle once getting a hold I did on this one as my hold was not complete first time around.  I felt the crushing reality of knowing he may live a long healthy life or quite possibly die for my mistake (and the fishing line), depending on whether I could make up for my mistake.  I continued my pursuit but he was now completely aware of me and really not happy.  Eventually after about 20 minutes I lulled him into a momentary lack of defense and made my move.  This was done while freediving to his depth of about 20 feet.  This time I did not let go and we wrestled for about 20 seconds till I could maneuver him to the surface..  This alone was exhausting.  I then waited till our boat could be positioned next to me for transfer to the boat.  I yelled my all to repeated direction "don't let go".  Unfortunately they did let go and I had to grab a hold without taking a full breath.  He then pulled me down several feet and I held on as long as I could till I could hold on no longer.  When I let go this time I was truly crushed.  I now felt directly responsible for him.  He and I were both exhausted now but he descended and I followed above.  After about another 15 minutes he rested on the bottom at about seventy feet.  Although I can freedive to that depth I knew there was no way I could dive to him, wrestle, then ascend all the way up on one breath.  I decided to dive down with scuba as stealthfully as I could and then bring him up hopefully slowly.  When your dealing with compressed air, fast ascents are not good.  Fortunately this worked and the trip up was relatively easy (and slow) as we were both practically void of any energy.  This time the transfer to the boat was successful.  Once on the boat we removed the line that had only caused superficial damage at that point and we were able to return him to the water immediately.  He was a very strong healthy male turtle who I am sure we will see more of.  

If your wondering why this male turtle was named Claire, it is because I had already vowed to name the next rescued turtle after my former girlfriend who is still my very dear friend.  Thank you Claire for the inspiration, and thank you to the gang at Celestial and Paradise Cafe in Haleiwa for the help.         

Turtle Release #15 "Gonzales"
Nov.26th, 1999
Three Tables Beach, North Shore Oahu
Just one day after his exhausting capture Gonzales was going back home in great shape. In cases like this we know that fin loss and death was eminent and we made the difference by rescuing him early. These are clearly the most rewarding rescues of all and I wish they could all be like this. We shall be watching for Gonzales and are very confident that we will see him soon.

Turtle Rescues #11 #12 #13 "Tom", "Gonzales", "Keller"
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25th, 1999
| Puaena Point, Sharks Cove and Haleiwa Harbor, Oahu
On the previous day our instructor, Dan, sighted a turtle with line in his mouth and wrapping around his fin, while conducting a tour with a customer. He was unable to capture the turtle so we came back later that afternoon to find him. Upon our return we found him immediately and started stalking him. We followed him for approximately a half hour and never got closer than 5 ft from him. We decided to come back the next day, Thanksgiving Day. A group of six staff members and one customer set out early and stopped by one of our turtle cleaning stations outside the harbor. I jumped in just to check things out and sure enough I spotted a medium sized turtle "Tom" with line choking off circulation in him right front fin. I apprehended him easily as he was quite lethargic. Once on the boat I knew his fin would be amputated. Officials said it would be two hours before they could arrive so we set out for the turtle we followed the day before. Once at Sharks Cove we dove down and saw him almost immediately. Once again a pursuit ensued with myself and Chris (our dive master artist) shooting video. I had decided from the previous day that I might abandon my scuba gear so that I could follow him above from the surface with less drag. The day before had been very frustrating and I was hell bent to get him today. I knew at the least he would lose one fin if I didn't or quite possibly die. So after another exhausting half hour pursuit Chris dropped back and I ditched my gear and continued pursuit on the surface watching him 40 ft below. About 15 minutes later I saw him coming up and positioned myself above. Sure enough, after 45 minutes I grabbed hold of him, on his surface for breath, which he sorely needed. A tremendous relief came over me. I named him "Gonzales" as in Speedy. Once back in the harbor we turned over the turtles. Shortly after, a large turtle with tumors and fishing line swam by the dock. I jumped in and got him. Unfortunately he was blind in one eye and nearly so in the other (thus his name "Keller" i.e. Helen Keller), sadly we believe he will not make it. All in all, it was an amazingly up and down day. Our biggest hope is that by our efforts, others will become more aware and help us change things for the better.

Turtle Recovery "Grim"
November 22cd, 1999
Haleiwa Harbor, North Shore Oahu
Unfortunately not all our encounters with the turtles end up happy. On this day we received a call about a beached turtle. When we arrived we found a very lethargic, emaciated turtle with multiple tumors. He was young and obviously in a very bad state. He had been there so long that he was partially buried in the sand. We turned him over to authorities knowing that they might not be able to do anything, but we hoped for the best.

Turtle Rescue # 8 "Kenny"
August 10, 1999
Waimea Bay, North Shore Oahu, Hawaii

This was an incredible day even by our standards. In the morning we spread the message of concern for the marine environment on Hawaii¹s #1 morning news program. Then we released Kainoa after having one fin amputated and one month in captivity. Now, on another boat dive charter we found our eight turtle in just 38 days! I am quite sure that no company has ever commanded the states attention and effected so much education through the media as we had done. All boasting aside we as a staff had done an incredible job. To me the turtles were messengers, and we were obligated to tell their story. So tell their story we did. People from all over the state called or came into the shop to thank us for what we had done, but all the thanks we needed was in knowing the bottom line. The bottom line was that we had physically saved many lives, and that feeling is unsurpassable in its joy. This time we received a call from one of our supporting North Shore Lifeguards who had sighted a turtle with hooks and line on his neck. We responded immediately, much to the liking of our customers and found "Kenny² the turtle after about a one hour search. I was able to free dive down about 8 ft and grab hold of Kenny on my second attempt. I was much nearer to the crowded shores of Waimea

Turtle Rescue #7 "Zoe"
August 8, 1999
Puanea Point, North Shore Oahu, Hawaii

Only one day after finding "Haloti" we found "Zoe". This turtle was also found while conducting a boat dive charter, with 5 customers on board. Zoe was a happy story because we were able to remedy her problem and release her right away. She was a beautiful healthy turtle aside from a large "ulua² hook which had hooked here completely through her small mouth. There was also fishing line coming off the hook and into her mouth which could be very dangerous. As it turned out however it was not. After about a half hour the hook and line was removed and Zoe was back home in the water. Always a good feeling. Of special interest is the fact that Joe, our instructor, had just been cleared to dive after his recompression chamber visit one month earlier. (see "Turtle Rescue #4 "Kainoa") "Kainoa" the turtle gets released August 10, 1999 West Waimea Point, North Shore Oahu, Hawaii After over one month in captivity and rehabilitation, Kainoa was to be released. Minus his left fin which sadly had to be amputated. For us however, this was a very good day. Earlier in the morning, Joe and myself were featured speakers on Hawaii¹s #1 morning new show. We had several minutes of unimpeded air time where the story of these turtles was able to be spread to tens of thousands of Hawaii residents. After having put up a bit of a battle, George Balaas (Hawaii¹s top turtle expert) agreed to let Kainoa free right where we found him on the North Shore. This meant a lot to us because we knew the interaction between turtles among their own species is much like the relationships that we as people develop for our friends and family, and our home for that matter. Seeing Kainoa was moving for us as well because he was in such bad shape when we found him. As soon as he heard the ocean however, all the life in him exposed itself. In about knee deep water we let him out of his plastic box and off he went. We feel confident that we will see him again soon, and in the mean time we continue to pursue further protection of his home.. 

Turtle Rescue #6 "Haloti"
August 7, 1999
Puaena Point, North Shore Oahu, Hawaii

As we routinely find marine problems on our paid tours we invariably find that our customers genuinely appreciate our efforts. Often times it is the kids that really support us. I think many in the younger generations intelligently and intuitively know just how serious the problems are that we are creating for them. A few days earlier a young boy named Zach had seen us bring "Dan" into the harbor and it moved him. He then brought in a ball of fishing line and weights he had just recovered at Waimea Bay. Due to our latest report of an injured turtle in the area we were on the search the next day and I invited Zach and his family to come along and observe. Sure enough we found our sixth turtle, "Haloti" at a turtle cleaning station that we frequent regularly. As I approached Haloti he literally swam into my hands and I almost effortlessly brought him to the surface. Haloti was in terrible shape. Fishing line had wrapped around his right fin cutting off all circulation of blood. His fin was literally rotting off of his body. Bones were exposed and the flesh was a sickly grayish color. Line had also wrapped around his other fin and had just started cutting into his flesh. I have no doubt whatsoever that Haloti was dead had we not helped him. I didn¹t know at the time if he would make it anyway. Needless to say we turned him over to a vet and thankfully he made it, after that all too common fin amputation. We have shared these types of experiences with dozens of customers but today was special. I can only say that the impact this experience had on Zach was obviously profound and I believe he will end up working to save life as well as a result of his experience with us. One of the perks we get I guess. I asked Zach what he wanted to do on camera earlier that day and he replied: " I want to come work for Deep Ecology." As far as I¹m concerned Zach, the job is yours for the taking. 

Turtle Rescue #5 "Dan"
August 3, 1999
Three Tables, North Shore Oahu, Hawaii

Still on our search for the original turtle that Lauran had told us about we finally found him! Once again on a dive tour with customers our guide/instructor, Dan found the turtle swimming with the use of only one fin. He brought the divers back to the boat. Joe and myself pursued with mask, snorkel and fins. After spotting him about 35-40 ft below we decided I would free dive down and bring him up. After taking deep breaths I descended. Because he was weak and had small tumors around his eyes he seemed oblivious to my approach. I grabbed onto his shell and brought him up without incident. From there, Joe and myself towed him to the boat. Fishing line was indeed all around him and trailing behind. The line had cut once again down to the bone. Swelling, infection, and rotting flesh at the wound created the all too familiar stench. Line wrapped around his neck had only just started to cut into him. It was obvious he needed treatment so we brought him back and turned him over to George Balaas and a turtle rehabilitation center here on Oahu. This being the fifth turtle we had found in only 31 days. I was becoming more dissatisfied with Hawaii¹s pitiful lack of ecological consciousness. We knew that there were countless more turtles and other marine life dying from the discarded waste of careless fishermen and we vowed to continue searching, and more important documenting. On this day I stated for the media "I guarantee we find more turtles.: Four days later we had turtle #6 ("Haloti"). Within two weeks we found #7 ("Zoe"), #8 ("Kenny") and 9 ("Bumpy").

Turtle Release #4 "Atlantis"
November 23rd, 1999
Alligator Rock, North Shore Oahu

One and a half months after his rescue we were putting "Atlantis" back into his home, 4 pounds and 3 ounces lighter (the size of the tumor that was removed). The veterinarian had to cut through major blood vessels in a tricky surgery, but the procedure was successful. This was truly one of the most gratifying releases because the removal the monstrous tumor brought back the beauty of this majestic creature. With neighbors and supporters lined up on the beach, Atlantis made his crawly back into the ocean and we watched him swim away with great pride. Some days are better than others.

Turtle Rescue #2 "Lefty"
July 3, 1999
Haleiwa Trench, North Shore Oahu, Hawaii

In looking back, its amazing just how one statement can snowball into a tremendous sequence of events. On July 2nd a friend, Lauran, came to the shop and said: "There¹s a turtle at Haleiwa Trench" with fishing line wrapped all around him. He¹s in bad shape² With that we were on a mission to find this turtle. The next morning we have a team of four divers and the search was on. About twenty five minutes into the dive Lauran found a large turtle resting underneath a ledge. He had line wrapped tightly around his right fin. Lauran proceeded to flush him out as I positioned myself to grab hold of him. When I did he resisted but we eventually made the 70ft ascent to the surface. Holding onto this big turtle was no easy task but we managed to get him onto the boat and remove the line which was literally cutting down to the bone. Just as with "Chance" the bad fin was double the size of the normal one. Emanating from the deep wound, swelling, and apparent infection was the stench of rotting flesh. Despite the horrendous wound I knew from my experience with Chance that he could survive. Even though the loss of his fin was almost inevitable. With this in mind we let him go. We believe that we sighted Lefty about three weeks later. We will continue to watch for him. Lefty however was not the turtle Lauran had sighted the previous day. The search would continue. It took only six days before we found turtle #3. 

"Chance Sighted!!!" Ten Months Later
June 1999,
Three Tables, North Shore Oahu, Hawaii

What a thrill it was to see the turtle we have rescued 10 months earlier. To know that we literally saved his life is a feeling more precious than anything money can buy. Chance had indeed lost his fin but despite the odds, he was making it. I was able to free dive down to him several times and he showed no fear at all. I really believe deep down he knows who I am and is grateful. Either way it has been an honor to help him. I hope we see him many times over the years. 


©1999 Deep Ecology and North Shore Diving Headquarters